While we are enjoying some extra snuggle time with the Monkeys, we are so pleased to be able to bring you a series of posts from some of our favorite bloggers. Today’s post comes to us from writer Olga Mecking.
Olga and I are fellow members of Multicultural Kid Blogs. We met only relatively recently, but already I am a huge fan! Olga has incredible insights about cultures and languages, especially from the perspective of an expat. She has a talent for bringing complicated, academic topics to a level anyone can relate to.
Today she tackles the issue of religion and cultural identity. Is your religious background part of who you are, even if you are no longer religious?
I was born in Poland, a country that is very Catholic and the church has a lot of influence in the society. I also come from a family that has never been extremely religious. My parents never considered a wedding in a church; instead they had a little ceremony with a few friends, and didn’t even tell anybody about it. It was only years later, when my brother was born, when decided to have us both baptized and had a second wedding in the Catholic Church.
Every Sunday, we would attend mass. Luckily, the priest was great, never boring and always nice and polite, his sermons interesting and child-friendly. We stopped attending when my brother and my mother decided that they won’t go anymore. My mother has never been very religious, and only attended because of the rest of the family. My brother decided to become an atheist, and never went back to church ever since.
As for me, I accompanied my father to the church once in a while, but even I soon stopped. As a student, I found another church where I loved going, and felt at home. I even went to Taizé to be part of an international, intercultural, and ecumenical community. It was a great experience, and yet it didn’t feel right to me. When I went to Hamburg for a scholarship, I stopped attending mass all together.
My husband comes from a family where the mother quit church (it’s much easier to do in Germany than it is in Poland), and his father occasionally attended. My husband and his brother are atheists, they were never baptized, and never inside of a church except for recreational purposes. However, when we got married, we got married in a Catholic church in Germany.
Even though I stopped going to church, I still saw being Catholic as a part of my cultural identity. My husband agreed, and we had a nice long talk with the priest, who proved to be very understanding. When you get married, you exchange vows. And on top of my wedding vows, I promised that I would raise my children in the Catholic faith.
While I haven’t taken my children to church, or in fact, been there myself, I did one thing to fulfill this promise: I got my oldest child baptized. In a Catholic church in Warsaw, no less. Since I felt I was the one responsible for their Polish language and culture, it all made sense. The ceremony was a bilingual one, in Polish and German. My parents-in-law had never been to Poland before, and found this a great opportunity to finally visit my home country.
We’re also trying to get our second child baptized for the very same reasons- but it’s difficult now, since I am pregnant and can’t travel a lot, or make the necessary preparations. Maybe when the little boy is born, we’ll have them baptized together.
My reasons for having my children baptized were less religious or spiritual, but of more cultural nature. We still follow some of the Catholic traditions (for example during Christmas or Easter), and it is also one of the elements making up our family culture.
Olga is mom to two trilingual daughters and is expecting her third child very soon! She is a translator and trainer in intercultural communication. She can be found at Olga Mecking, writing about expat life and raising trilingual children. You can find her on Facebook, and Twitter.